According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than 11,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. The good news: Vaccination and regular screening can prevent the disease.
January has been designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month. This is the time to raise awareness of the problem, highlight the solution, and understand how we can decrease the statistics through simple prevention.
About Cervical Cancer:
There are two main types of cervical cancer, with the most common being squamous cell carcinoma. This type develops from cells covering the outside of the cervix at the top of the vagina. Very early-stage cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms; therefore, regular cervical screening is pivotal to detect any anomalies.
What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?
Some of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer can include:
What is Cervical Screening?
Cervical screening is done through a smear test. This test allows your doctor to collect a small sample of cells from the cervix to check for abnormalities.
How often should someone have a smear test?
Generally, it is recommended to repeat the Pap smear every three years for women ages 21 to 65. If you have certain risk factors, such as a previous Pap smear with pre-cancerous cells, exposure to DES before birth, HIV infection, or a history of smoking, your doctor may recommend more frequent screening.
HPV and cervical screening:
The main risk factor for cervical cancer is being infected with HPV, Human Papilloma Virus. There are many types of HPV, but some affect the cervix. For the most part, if someone gets infected with HPV, the immune system can fight the virus. However, for some people, their immune system can’t get rid of the infection. Having the infection long enough can cause changes and damage the tissue, eventually leading to cancer.
For this reason, there is a need to raise awareness about cervical cancer and HPV vaccination. Educating our community about the importance of getting screened is pivotal in battling this disease, as this specific cancer can be cured if caught on time. Please don’t wait; visit your doctor.